ASIA/INDONESIA - Presidential Elections: Towards a peaceful Indonesia

Thursday, 16 November 2023 elections   politics  

Creative Commons E. Girardet

Jakarta (Agenzia Fides) - The presidential election race in Indonesia is in full swing. The Indonesian Election Commission has announced the three candidates to succeed current president Joko Widodo at the helm of the world's third-largest democracy in the February 2024 presidential election, saying the campaign will officially begin on November 28. More than 205 million citizens will be called to vote on February 14th to elect a new president in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country (273 million inhabitants). The candidates, each with their vice president, are: Anies Baswedan with Muhaimin Iskandar; Ganjar Pranowo, flanked by Mahfud M.D.; Prabowo Subianto with Gibran Rakabuming Raka. Current President Joko Widodo's Democratic Party of Struggle of Indonesia (PDI-P) named Ganjar Pranowo as its candidate and Security Minister Mahfud as his deputy. Candidate Baswedan, who is supported by conservative Muslims and Islamic groups, appointed Iskandar, leader of the Islamic National Awakening Party (PKB), as his deputy. Prabowo Subianto, the current Defense Minister and founder of the nationalist and conservative Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), formed a solid alliance with the National Awakening Party (PKB) and with the Golkar and National Mandate parties. The Catholic bishops of Indonesia spoke out at the recent general assembly of the Bishops' Conference (November 4-11) on the delicate political situation in which the country finds itself, raising some concerns: there is an "unhealthy competition" between candidates a “deterioration in the quality of democracy” in Indonesian politics heading into the 2024 elections, they wrote. This has intensified the political confrontation and raised the risk of a "horizontal conflict" caused by the clash of different political interests and aggravated by the "misuse of information by the media, which has led to the spread of lies, slander and even hostility". Against this background, the bishops warned of the dangers of "identity politics based on ethnicity, religion, race and small groups, exploited by political competitors," according to a text published at the end of the assembly. "Discrimination, poverty, inequality, corruption, collusion and nepotism, as well as social inequality, terrorism, radicalism and intolerance are common in this country," the joint statement said. "We have an obligation to pay serious attention to these issues, to listen to people's suffering and also to recognize individuals who seek to exploit them for personal or group gain." Referring to the meeting's theme "Together towards a peaceful Indonesia", Indonesia's Catholic bishops fear possible social conflicts will arise given the "heated" political climate. In this situation, the basic principles of democratic life and respect as well as the essence of the Indonesian nation, which is based on the motto "unity in diversity", must be preserved. The bishops therefore call on their compatriots to "sincerely support the government elected and appointed by the Indonesian people." "We are all called," they write, "to work together for a just policy for the good of all, to build a worthy, peaceful Indonesia, with 'one thought, one love, one soul, one goal, without seeking our own interests (Phil 2, 2-3)". In this context, particular attention is drawn to the ongoing crisis in the Indonesian region of Papua, where the conflict between rebel groups and security forces is causing unrest and suffering among the civilian population in some provinces. The bishops call on the current and future governments to "engage in dialogue" and take steps to negotiate with all groups in Papua, "including religious leaders, traditional leaders, women's leaders, church leaders and tribal leaders". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 16/11/2023)